Our culture is remarkably proficient at training its residents. It’s an amazing self-feeding, self-inflating spiral, built and reinforced by the people, for the people. The strongest leaders tend to have the strongest personality. They climb the highest the fastest generally because they are the loudest and (quote) “smartest.” Trouble is, many terms like these are not really defined. To ask how one defines “smart” for instance would be to receive an answer that has more to do with what schools they went to, rather than a person’s real mental acuity. Worse, it’s not the definition that matters to the culture, but the general message behind it: “If you want to be respected, it really helps to be smart.” The amoeba-like terms float in and through the public like a ghostly humanistic fog, and its hedonistic hues, undetectable to the immersed, color every thought.
One of those terms is the term “authority.” The message behind the word seems to have more to do with power and control than with God-given leadership. Colored by the desire to be happy (as most of these terms are), this meaning of authority is tempered by the belief that no higher authority exists but man.
I was introduced to a list of of the components of authority (some call them sources of authority). This is not a new list, as it was introduced by a businessman named William Onckens in 1970, but a helpful one nonetheless.
Onckens’ components are Competence, Position, Personality, and Character. One Sunday our class talked about these things and related them to Jesus’ authority. We also related them to the Roman centurion in Matthew 8. Jesus is the perfect example of each of these components. He had unlimited competence, the highest position, the strongest (and truest) personality, as well as a holy life. Yet, like the centurion, His authority was given to Him by someone with higher authority: the Father. The Roman, accustomed to being gruff and forceful with his cohort, was perfectly competent for his role. He had position, personality, and was respected by those who followed him. He clearly cared for his paralyzed servant, after all.
Before Jesus, he chose to change his position. In verse 8, he says, ” Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” He goes on to explain that in his position, he understands authority, being both under and over men, implying that if Jesus spoke, it would be accomplished. The Roman chose to lower himself under Jesus’ authority and acknowledge his incompetence.
For a guy that cared that much for his servant, that took guts.
Family Authority: The Analogy Hits Home
Having said all that, it has dawned on me that as a dad, I need to be like the Roman centurion. I mean, I don’t exactly have a cohort with 3 kids, but I do have authority. I don’t have it because of a position I obtained, as if I climbed some familial “ladder” of success. I don’t have it because I was competent for the job. Do you know anyone that has a degree in “fatherhood?” I don’t have it because I have an amazing type A winsome personality (because I don’t). I also don’t have it because I proved I had adequate character for these kiddos (I’ve sinned and made way more mistakes than I’d like to admit).
The thing is, I could attribute all of these four things to myself. But my authority was given to me by God. I have the position because God gave it to me. I am competent because He makes me competent. I have the perfect personality for this family, and by God’s grace, I am growing in my character.
In short, I am the man for this job.
I have lived long under the lies of the culture and I believe God has been opening my eyes to the fact that the kind of leader I am should not bend to the kind of leader the culture says I ought to be. God has chosen me, in all my awkwardness, to lead my family. I should continue to look to the Lord for growth in maturity and seek His wisdom.
There is balance in this. I could be overconfident and assume the source of my authority is myself (in these components). However, I could also be self-deprecating about any or all of these components. Neither honors the Lord. Neither is humble.
I’ve struggled a lot as a dad, thinking I needed to be a “stronger leader,” which really meant “have a stronger, more winsome personality.” Now, if I would just walk with the Lord and allow Him to provide and sustain in these areas, maybe I would be quicker to distinguish the foggy voice of the culture from the clear voice of God.